Overview

More like a side scroller than a golf game and running on one dimension less than other 3D versions of the sport, Stick Golf HD brings a new take to an old classic.  Representing a more evolved version of the iPhone game of the same name, it is soon apparent that Stick Golf HD sparkles because of its simplicity, not in spite of it- at least to most of us.

Features

A tutorial is provided outlining the basic controls, but the process is simple enough that any training is almost unnecessary. Aim in a direction, start the swing, attempt to stop the swing at the power of your desire on the power meter.  Then watch as the ball soars through the air until it is subject to a smooth surface, sand trap, or water hazard. Simple physics also allow the ball to bounce and roll of vertical or horizontal surfaces, sometimes to your delight- other times not so much. 

There seems a large range of scores, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself scoring double, triple and quadruple eagles (if there is such a thing) on one hole, and quintuple bogeys on the next. Some levels seemed to be purposefully designed so that if you play it the way it looks like you should you will get around par, but if you try something crazy, you could get a hole in one or thirteen.

There are 108 unique holes that are organized into 3 course packs (basically easy, medium and hard). There are also unlockable achievements (such as harder courses), and they claim there are hidden Easter eggs, though I didn’t encounter any.

There are two modes of difficulty- easy and hard. The only difference is that in the hard setting, wind is a factor. In this mode you don’t only have to take angle and distance into account, but also factor in the wind blowing the ball further or shorter as an added variable. At this point, Stick Golf HD is very reminiscent of the classic flash game ‘Bowman’.

OpenFeint is also available, or you can just keep your scores ‘local’. The newest update (version 2.3) included a bundle of great fixes and new features including 4 new courses, improved physics, aiming and power bar accuracy, new achievements and score-reducer power-ups.

The Good

There is a good balance of challenge and success in Stick Golf HD.  Many of the things that make golf frustrating have been removed or subdued; for example, putting is nothing more than hitting the ball as hard as you can (no overshooting!), sand traps are your friend and if you get frustrated, you can restart the course easily at any time.  The ability to bounce the ball off the sides of the screen is also a nice addition.

The game play of SGHD is alarmingly addictive. Noodle Cake Games managed to capture the love/hate relationship associated with golf, but it leans more towards the love and less towards the hate, which is a good thing.

The clean graphics, unique and ever changing color palette and interesting worlds leave you feeling that this is how iPad games should be made. The many and varying levels will keep you playing and leave you satisfied. The sound effects are nice and poppy.

The Bad

In many aspects, this game isn’t really a ‘golf’ game.  Some of the things listed in ‘The Good’ will frustrate golf purists such as the lack of real putting.  This is unfortunate since a these will represent a large portion of the audience that found the game by typing ‘golf’ in the search box on iTunes.

There is also no soundtrack to be heard of and there isn’t much to the graphics as far as complexity (if you’re into complexity).

The Verdict
As long as you aren’t a frequent worshiper at the alter of the dimpled white ball, Stick Golf HD will probably be a great source of recreational fun that will keep on giving.  The amount of levels, many features and replayability make SGHD worth the $3.